A professor at the University of Virginia encouraged people to journal their pandemic experience. So, here it is. The new “pandemic” tag. Welcome.

Because yes, this is a thing now. While we are months into the existence of COVID-19, it was declared a pandemic on March 11. On March 13 we had our first 3 cases reported in Manitoba. The province of Manitoba declared a State of Emergency on March 20.

I am at the end of week 1 of social distancing, or not-sick-person self-isolation. Like many with chronic illnesses existing with degrees of immuno-compromise, as a person with severe asthma, I’m staying home. Even if you’re generally healthy with no underlying health conditions, we’re pleading with YOU to #StayHome, too. We aren’t learning our new vocabulary terms “social distancing”, “self isolation” and “self quarantine” for nothin’, here.

Unlike many, my post-pandemic, social distancing, self isolation life is perhaps not too distant from my regular work-from-home, very remotely from my coworkers who also work from home but in BC. Except post-pandemic life is regardless different. I don’t leave the house. I could go for a walk, but like, what if I see a cute dog I want to meet but how the hell do I stay six feet away from their human then? This is a problem of social distancing, and I lose self-control around doggos. Also, because nearly everyone else is social distancing, I’ve already had 2 virtual game nights, spent St. Patrick’s Day watching the Dropkick Murphys play to a camera crew in an empty venue (the 17th was the l went out: I had to get a Shamrock Shake from curbside McDonalds), and got to enjoy Drew Brown doing a basement acoustic concert.

Unlike others who are newly working-from-home and feel they have all this newfound time not lost in their commute, my days are the same except for watching the morning press conference from Justin Trudeau at 10:15 and then the one from the Government of Manitoba around 11 each morning. The pandemic news cycle is exhausting, but try as I might, I can’t avoid looking all damn day even though that’s what I advise others to do. I’m a news junkie and I have been since Donald Trump got elected because WTF? I scroll Facebook like the rest of us do, and read, and validate, and share. I try to share the good news. And I try to share the really good, and funny things arising of people’s social distancing.

Social distancing, self isolation, and self quarantine are making for some really damn good internet, I have to say. Like the sports commentator who no longer has sports to commentate on and instead is commentating on mundane life activities. These people who made a parody of If I Had A Million Dollars about COVID-19. Basically, I have learned this week that pandemics are distracting.

I’ve also been providing random observations, like I do, of the daily Trudeau press conferences. In case you’re reading this far in the future, recall that Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, also known as Justin Trudeau’s wife, has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This means that Justin is also self isolating at a distance in Rideau Cottage. (Justin, are we on a first-name basis? Thanks.) As such, the press briefings are outside.

Here is what I have observed so far. He still has a few days of self-isolation left as far as I can calculate, which means there will probably be some more things to comment on:

  • Friday, 03/20 – When Justin Trudeau has to do a press conference from outside his home due to self isolation, occasionally you hear a crow in the background!
  • Saturday, 03/21 – Justin Trudeau forgot to take out his earphones (Bluetooth) before he left Rideau Cottage. He began his press briefing, and then realized and removed them to put on the podium
  • Sunday, 03/22 – Justin Trudeau has to inform not one, but two reporters calling in by phone that their line is on mute. (There was also some banging during which he expertly paused before answering the reporter’s question, while simultaneously looking like nothing was happening.)
It is now a daily goal to record these odd observations for those who are not tuning in to the press conferences (also for Americans who need a more peaceful and even pandemic press conference experience). As well, I have been “determining” (ie. making up completely) which cabinet ministers are assisting JT with random tasks during his self isolation. So far Patty Hajdu (Health Minister) is wiping down the doorknob after he returns inside, Bill Morneau (Finance Minister) is helping him dye his hair which I cannot give any real rationale for, and when my friend Bill (not Morneau) asked whose job it was to be the crow executioner earlier today, I have assigned this to Joyce Murray, Minister of Digital Government, as the crow is clearly disrupting this process.
On weekdays, I usually watch the press conferences and go about my work life as normal. Archery ended the week before last, so a few days before we were in full on social-distancing mode. The last bus I took, on the way home from archery, had so many sick people on it, I got off two stops early and when I got in my mom’s car she informed me I was not taking the bus again till this was over. That was a Thursday. Friday the 13th was the day that everyone started buying up all the friggen toilet paper here. There was a line down the entire front of Costco waiting to get in (Facebook shows me, anyways). So Saturday the 14th we went to see the shelves. No toilet paper in sight, and that has continued in many stores around the globe.
Which is friggen bananas, in all realty. This is a respiratory virus. What do y’all need all this canned food and toilet paper for? It’s not a GI bug or a snowstorm. Now stores have begun to institute per person limits on many items, and in some cases are engaging in price gouging.
Also Jill in Ottawa spotted a guy with a cart at Dollarama full of rope, tarps and lightbulbs, so 1) I friggen hope he is building a shelter with those supplies and 2) the disconnect between lightbulbs and extreme prepper shelter building in a pandemic is perplexing.
Also speaking of doomsday preppers, I’ve been wondering how these people are doing. They’re surely laughing at the rest of us us (while medical professionals are or will be in desperate need of their masks).
Also I put this rainbow in my window today. I’m not sure if the kids are looking for rainbows or Easter eggs in Winnipeg’s treasure-hunt-social-distancing-go-for-a-walk game but I’ll add the easter egg soon.

Current stats in Manitoba: 11 cases confirmed, 9 probable cases, 0 deaths.
Canada has a total of 1430 cases confirmed, 41 probable cases, and 20 deaths.
STAY HOME.
(You can follow my day-to-day social distancing/self isolation updates on Instagram.)

Back in September, probably sometime between campaigns, I sent a note to the team at Atmotube, asking if I could review their product. They quickly said yes, and within a couple weeks I had an Atmotube Pro device clipped near-constantly to my belt loop, where it’s been most days for the last 2 months. 

Atmotube is a personal air quality monitor—it tracks humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, particulate matter (10 and 2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We’ve had a lot of time to get acquainted, as when after a month of use I’d planned to write this, I got a lung infection and blah blah blah. Not why we are here (but it will come up).

There are two models of the Atmotube, the tube-looking one and the Pro, which is the version they sent me. There are some functional differences between the two, but for me, I was most happy with the battery life on the Pro. I have mine set to test the air quality every 10 minutes, since I’m usually at home. As I understand it, it also does on-demand tests when you hit the button, so when I’m curious, that’s a good option too. 

Pressing the button illuminates the multicoloured LED present just above the button—the colour displayed corresponds to the colour the monitor associates with the air quality, from blue [great] to red [poor] with green, yellow and orange in the middle. It also does an on-demand air quality test. Opening the app gives you a greater sense of what your environmental air “looks like” at a given moment in time. Here’s one from as I’m editing this article:

I should really move the air purifier to the kitchen. More on that shortly.

First days with the Atmotube Pro
I sent a lot of messages to friends during the first few days with the Atmotube—this thing is COOL. I wore it out the first night I got it, but was outside most of the evening in great air quality, so my results were as expected. The next day, though, is clear in my mind. Here’s what my day looked like:
Noon – Left home to go to Staples and Shoppers Drug Mart.
12:45 – Shoppers drug mart asked I come back in an hour and a half for my flu shot.
1 PM – Arrived at a nearby apartment building to canvass for the federal election.
2 PM – Completed canvassing 2 floors, walked back to the mall.
2:10 – Went to the food court for a root beer
2:15 – Arrived back at the pharmacy
2:45ish – Returned to the apartment building, chatted with seniors, finally began canvassing again.
4:40 PM – Left apartment to walk to meet my parents for my mom’s birthday dinner. Immediately upon opening door (my hand was still on it!), the Atmotube app IMMEDIATELY alerted the humidity had dropped past the set threshold. My mind was BLOWN how fast it was.
5:05 PM – Finally get to near restaurant but we are not going there anymore. Get in the car.
5:15 PM – Arrive at Mongo’s Grill, an open-grill Mongolian-style stir-fry restaurant if you couldn’t guess.
5:20 PM – Atmotube continues to freak out about high particulate matter for the duration of the meal.
6:30 PM – Arrive home, where the air quality is consistently decent-but-not-great. 

Here’s what the graphs look like from that day:
 

Beyond everyday use
Within a week of getting the Atmotube, I headed off to Philadelphia. The device itself stores data while not connected to a smartphone, so being on the plane didn’t hinder my data collection (although I think it was still connected). The air quality was surprisingly good on all 4 of my flights, which I found interesting—and shocking! The hotel also didn’t cause me any asthma issues as they sometimes do, and the air quality there was also consistently good! 

My friend John also has an Atmotube, and he noted the air quality in the hospital he works in isn’t great – when I went to Urgent Care a couple months ago, I forgot to take the Atmotube with me, which is disappointing because I was sort of looking forward to that experiment! 

What I’ve learned from the Atmotube
I’ve learned a few things from using Atmotube. Here’s the most interesting one:

I very quickly noted sharp drops in air quality when cooking. I checked out a Government of Canada document that notes running the stove exhaust fan when cooking to be helpful for promoting indoor air quality (by drawing the particulate matter out of the house) – I’d love to speak to how the data from Atmotube Pro actually changes but I assume there are many variables involved that would make this complicated for my non-scientist brain to wrap around—ie. duration of cooking, what is being cooked and how, when or whether the exhaust fan was turned on, and device proximity. I can say the effects are a consistent drop in air quality with most stovetop cooking, though (as first noted at Mongo’s). As I wrote this section, my dad was just making food on the stovetop (with the exhaust fan on), some sort of grilled sandwich, as well as making coffee in the percolator. When I opened up the app a minute ago, the air quality score was about 50 – but the sensor is down the hall. Now it’s 66, sensor still down the hall, about 12 steps away.

The next is that some buses appear to have worse air quality than others, even when riding on the same route. I am curious if this is bus-model specific, but haven’t yet been able to determine reliably. It’s fascinating (but also sucky?). 

Oh, and this will surprise no one: It’s true – hockey arenas have poor air quality.
So do food courts. 

Changes I’ve made
Related to the stove exhaust, we try to run it more frequently when cooking on the stovetop.  I have purchased a “pluggable” “air sanitizer” (mostly because it was on sale for $30) made by Germ Guardian that is apparently good for minimizing cooking odours—it wasn’t running when the above food related numbers were cited. Of course, it’s really difficult to tell how well it works because “food odours” are pretty subjective, and I’m going to assume, the particles released are perhaps not super uniform.
But check it out—here’s a small peak in particulate matter during food prep time:
 

Though generally our house air quality scores are quite good overall, I also ordered an air purifier on Boxing Day (a JS FLO). And damn, I can tell you, the Atmotube says that thing actually works—here are the graphs. The first 2 are from the first time I turned the air purifier on. The third is from the day where I heard you should run the air purifier for a couple hours before you go to bed (makes sense, no?) so I left the Atmotube in my room with it.

If it isn’t clear, air quality score (AQS) should go up, VOCs (and particulate matter) should go down. 

Problems I’ve had with Atmotube
The problems I’ve experienced with Atmotube are pretty minimal.

The first, with the LED, you have to hold the device at a very particular angle to see the actual corresponding colour to the current air quality—if you move the device around, you see different colours. For this (and for the greater amount of data), I prefer to use the app.

The device also comes pre-calibrated, and states it does not require regular calibration as it will continue to calibrate as it works. In mid-November (coincidentally, just as I was getting sick with that lung infection), I was getting consistently lower readings. This is also right when it got colder, and I assumed, when the furnace was running more—so, having asthma, I attributed this to why I was feeling cruddy. (As determined later, it was a lung infection leading to the asthma issues.) I did hit the recalibrate button. The change in results (which improved), of course, lead to questioning on my part of the accuracy of the device—it’s generally been consistent . I’d love to do side-by-side comparisons between two devices, such as with another Atmotube Pro, or a different personal air quality monitor (I think there’s maybe one other on the market right now), to see if results are consistent. I still think given my experiences—ie. poor air quality on buses with doors constantly opening and closing in traffic, realistic responses to humid environments and temperature changes, and so on—that the device is reliable.

There’s also a barometer function that I really don’t use—the scale goes from “stormy” to “very dry”, and it’s always apparently “stormy” with low pressure. I don’t know much about this, but I certainly know it’s currently cold but calm outside! 

Oh and this isn’t really a problem, but more of a funny: the Atmotube always alerts me to poor air quality when I do a nebulizer treatment. The particles are likely 5-7 micrometres, which is near certainly registering in the atmotube as an influx of PM10 (which is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter. I will maintain that the Ventolin I am inhaling is good for my lungs and not a pollutant!

What I’d like to see
While the Atmotube has already given me so much more data and insight than I’d have expected possible—seriously, this thing is cool—the main thing I’d really like to see from the Atmotube app is actually a bit more different information. It does a good job of really concisely saying what you can do in general to improve indoor air quality, but it’d be nice to see, for instance, some information tailored to what you’re experiencing. “Hey. Your PM2.5 is increasing. If you’re cooking, try running the hood fan.” “Hey, your house seems pretty dry. Here’s what can help right now and over time.” (My house is apparently too dry all the time. Other than buying a humidifier, which I don’t want to do, I still don’t know what to do about that.” While I will say it has told me to get plants to increase my household humidity, I’ll say I’ve only been successful at keeping my cactus alive for several years… and it’s a cactus.
More actionable alerts rather than generalized articles would perhaps actually encourage people to do things to alter their indoor air quality, humidity, or so-forth. Like right now, I’d like to know where the heck the elevated VOCs are coming from causing the app to “alarm”!

I can also think of a number of great quantified self projects when I decide to dig into playing with the CSV files a bit more. But that is a nerdy pursuit for another day!

Who Atmotube is for
Are you a nerd who likes checking a device you’re wearing all the time? Do you have a health condition, like asthma or heart disease that makes it more important for you to know what you’re breathing? Are you willing to put some time in to devise patterns, do some research, and make your own inferences from the data the Atmotube is getting you? If yes to any or all of these (all = me), and you can make the financial investment, I’d say yes. I’ve found using the Atmotube the last several months fascinating and illuminating to what, exactly, is in the air I’m breathing. 
Even if that happens to be Ventolin and it tells me its pollution. We can’t be totally perfect. 😉 

Disclosure: I reached out to the makers of Atmotube, who sent me an Atmotube Pro device to review honestly (and keep) with no strings attached beyond just writing this article. They were fabulous answering my many questions, sending a reviewers guide, and being patient in all my delays getting this article out—thanks, Ariuna and Daria!

I’ve got rave reviews about the cookies I make (for which I took the recipe from the internet, of course). People are always mind-blown that they’re that good and have 4 ingredients.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Oh hey, s’mores cookie bars.

A post shared by kerri (@kerriontheprairies) on

I’m not mind blown, because one of those ingredients is cake mix. Tonight, I made these s’mores bars on a base of cake mix cookies, and Facebook seems pretty amped. So, here’s the recipe. (Take that, recipe bloggers. You too can do a very brief recipe intro.

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (I always forget to do this, you can probably do it later because these cookies require dough chilling. Yes, I actually do it and yes it actually makes them better. Just listen, kay?)

1. Dump a cake mix into a large bowl. You can use whatever cake mix you want. (I find chocolate cake mix makes the best cookies but all are fine.)

Add:
2 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
Stir.

2. Stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips (Or other types of chips if not making s’mores bars. Or if making s’mores bars, have fun!)

3. Cover the bowl and stick your cookie dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes to chill. Or longer in the fridge. Or somewhere in between if you are using the fridge of the outdoors like I did.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF now.

4. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet. Spread the batter on a cookie sheet, or make actual cookies. (If you make actual cookies, I highly recommend a cookie scoop because they’re fun).

5. Bake 9-13 minutes. Or 11-13 minutes. Or something. They’ll be soft but seem done. I’ve also never burned these, so pay attention sort of.

6. If you’re making s’mores bars, remove from oven at about 11-12 mins (or when they start looking like they’re almost done), sprinkle with 5-6ish crushed graham crackers, marshmallows, and more chocolate chips.
Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or when things start looking melty.

7. Broil for 2-3 minutes on high on the middle rack. Stare them down while you’re doing this because one time my rack was too high and I lit some brownies basically on fire and had to re-make them. Oops.
Once you see them getting the right level of golden—both the marshmallows and the cookies—remove immediately and let cool.

8. Slice into bars (obviously) and store in an air-tight container. They last a good long while, I’m sure, but they always get eaten before they can get even close to old, so don’t worry about it. 😉

That was easy, eh?

If you make these, tag me because I want to see your delicious cookie bars :). Twitter @KerriYWG, Instagram @KerriOnThePrairies.

It seems like as good of a day as any to document the (partly strange) unfoldings of my life as they occurred today. 

1) Back to the old blog roots, I should first say I had my first pumpkin spice latte (iced, duh. But light ice.) of the season today. Honestly, while it was totally fine, I think there’s better stuff at Starbucks. But that still could be because they changed the pumpkin spice stuff all those years ago.

2) I had my annual visit with the psychiatrist for my ADHD meds today. She has moved her practice to her house and this is the first time I was there instead of the clinic. She once brought her dog to the clinic, but it turns out she has TWO DOGS and they have beds in the room she sees patients in, and when she told me to go have a seat in the room for the patients, I did not actually have a seat but went and crouched on the floor and visited the dog that was laying there all chill.

The other one seemed less chill about the whole thing, but also that was sort of nice because she was the greeting committee as soon as I walked in. Also as I left, I told my doctor about the 19 dogs I met while canvassing in the provincial election. Just in case she had any doubt I liked dogs, or anything.
But yeah, why is THIS the doctor I only have to see once a year? She has DOGS. 

3) I had a couple of phone meetings, which is a thing that happens when you work with people who live in BC, for a BC-based organization. (I am still pretty darn thankful they were like “hey, let’s ask this Manitoban to work with us”, because they are awesome.)

4) Here’s the weirdest story. As I was heading out for a NDP constituency meeting tonight, this kid on his bike stopped at the end of the sidewalk as my mom and I descended toward the street. 
He looks at me and says “Do you go to my school?”
He is like, SIX.
Child, I am TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD, no, I most certainly do not go to your school, though I did more-and-less than TWO DECADES ago.  

I am used to people thinking I look younger than I am, but this is a little extreme.

And now I have a headache. I would say it was from the sheer confusion about this child’s question, but honestly, I’ve had it off and on since this morning, so it’s perhaps best that I stop writing (not that it will probably help.)

Apparently at the end of March I was so set to fail Nanowrimo—for which I reached 11376 of 30000 goal words, thanks, nonfiction nano is hard—I never told y’all what I read in March. So here’s a double update.

March 2019

I should have written this a month ago because my brain is pretty much about to fail me for tiny reviews. Oh well, either way, I read these.

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers To When You Work in the White House – Alyssa Mastromonaco. Read on the road in Minneapolis, this book is a bit of a whirlwind (yesterday, I watched The Final Year Obama documentary and it would’ve been a great pairing with this book from a different perspective, I think), but definitely a good one for a road trip. At least it is if you’re a bit of a nerd, anyways.

Inheritance: A memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love – Dani Shapiro. Dani Shapiro does an online DNA test and discovers that her father isn’t actually her father… and goes on a quest to find her biological father (uncovering some ethical gaffes of the past in the process). 

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection – A.J. Jacobs. Oh yes, back to the A.J. Jacobs memoirs I am. In this one, A.J. attempts to become the healthiest man on the planet, through a series of diets, exercises, and discussions with experts. I think anyways, it’s been awhile and a lot of books since I’ve read this, okay?

Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey – A.J. Jacobs. In this one, A.J. tries to track down as many people as possible in making his morning coffee and thank them, from the people who do the graphic design for his coffee shop, to the people who make the coffee cups and lids, to a journey straight to the source of the coffee. An over-exaggeration of a common mindfulness exercise, but a short-ish book.

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World – A.J. Jacobs. The one that started it all, where A.J. Jacobs reads the entirety of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, annoys people, goes on Jeopardy, and joins Mensa with much confusion involving people’s hug preferences on stickers/buttons. It was, I guess, moderately entertaining? But a pursuit I’ll never understand.

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment – A.J. Jacobs. In which A.J. takes on a variety of mini-experiments that couldn’t be their own books, like outsourcing his life to personal assistants, pretending to be a celebrity, and following all of George Washington’s random rules of life. Yes, I did have to consult the summary for these. The mini-experiment nature of these made this book good but harder to remember than the others.

It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree – A.J. Jacobs. In which, again, A.J does something ridiculous and tries to host the world’s largest family reunion, trying to steal a Guinness world record from another family for the pursuit—after attending their family reunion also. A really bizarre but interesting examination of defining family.

Mind Without a Home: A memoir of schizophrenia – Kristina Morgan. Here’s what my two-star review says:
“The difficulty of writing in a way that gives a true representation of a mental illness like schizophrenia is what makes this book a difficult read. I couldn’t follow the lines of thought well, likely because this is just how the author and her brain coexist. It made for a difficult read where I felt I was crashing in and out of time periods and not knowing where the author was at in her illness. I know one of the themes was that she too didn’t know, but in order to become a bit more educated, I as an audience needed clearer lines to understand the ebbs and flows of the author’s schizophrenia, even if I am well aware clear delineation[s] such as these don’t exist in the real world.”

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite. The week after I read this, the Bookshare twitter chat actually covered this book. I’m not sure if I just need to read it again or what, as certain aspects of the book (which are likely cultural) and a lot of symbolism was lost on me until I did the Twitter chat. This could be more as now that I am not in school, I don’t really analyze what I am reading and just want to enjoy it? Solid 3 stars, although many rank it much higher!

Missing: A memoir – Lindsay Harrison. Around this time in March, a friend’s son went missing. I began pouring through stories of missing persons in both books and podcasts, as a way by which to potentially wrap my head around how a person can simply disappear and not leave a trace. This book was gripping and at times heartbreaking, as a college student and her family wade through the experience, tumult,  confusion of her mother going missing, and their journey to find her.

The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House – Ben Rhodes. Every so often, I need to go back to the good old days of Obama, despite not being American. Easily one of the best books I read last year, The World As It Is deserved a re-read. I can’t say I loved it as much as the first time, but maybe that’s because I found the actual audio-book and I’m just very used to the synthesized voice of Voice Dream Reader’s Will and Heather. Or I found it distracting not being read by Ben Rhodes as I hear his voice each week on Pod Save the World. Either way. Still a great book.

Books read: 11

April 2019.

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law – Preet Bharara.  This book was a very real look at the criminal justice system, and the flaws it has from the view of a prosecutor—which differed from how I personally thought a prosecutor may look at the justice system. With a heart towards defendants, Preet Bharara explores themes in the US Justice system that are eye-opening. (For an ease-in, sort of, check out his interview on Pod Save America. It’s fabulous.)

Pants on Fire – Meg Cabot. I never thought I’d give a Meg Cabot book just two stars, but here we are. This book just felt… too basic to me? I don’t know, but the reviewers with the highest ranked community ratings/reviews on Goodreads have ranked it 1-2 stars too, so it’s clearly not Cabot’s best work. Which is still, arguably, All American Girl, in my opinion (did that ever get made into a movie? It was supposed to.). Or the Heather Wells series. Or 1-800-Where-R-U. See, lots of other good titles, this just isn’t one. 

Out of the Pocket – Bill Konigsberg. Last year, I read my first book by Bill Konigsberg, and I don’t know why it took me so long to read another. So I went in full force into this LGBTQ+ author’s remaining works I hadn’t yet read. It’s been years since I took the course Issues in Sport, but I feel like this is something that we should have discussed there but didn’t—the fact that sexual orientation in sports should be a non-issue but isn’t. Out of the Pocket is the coming out of a fictional gay high school football star and the societal reactions to a non-straight athlete… and whether or not coming out will ruin his future career prospects.

The Porcupine of Truth – Bill Konigsberg. This story is just unbelievable enough to be believable—but hey, its fiction, so anything can happen. Here’s the summary, because I don’t need to re-write it, but we all know I’m always up for a good road-trip story—and The Porcupine of Truth is certainly that and then some.

The Music of What Happens – Bill Konigsberg. A high-schooler needing money to help bail his mom out of debt gets a job at a food truck, which happens to be owned by the mom of a guy in his class that he’s noticed. Obviously they fall in love with some confusion, but also they are hit by a legitimate Series of Unfortunate Events, except not by Lemony Snickett, including the food truck being hauled away… and fighting to get it back. 

Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann. Okay so while we’re into LGBTQ+ characters, lets swing into another realm known as hooray, fiction about asexuals! Representation is important. Alice is perhaps the most awkward but classic character, her girlfriend broke up with her after learning Alice is asexual, only to develop a massive crush on this dude at the library she works at. But the part of this book I really, really loved was Alice’s relationship with her two friends she lives with, and how she stands up to her parents who expect her to become a lawyer when she really does not want to. It’s like, classic young adult life shit and confusion, with the twist of ace-ness that makes it different than every other story about a girl falling in and out of love.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives – Dashka Slater. I think this book is written for middle-grade kids but the tone isn’t quite right, more suitable for a semi-academic read for an older crowd. The balance of story, fact and tone were awkward at times, and I think the author struggled to weave these together appropriately. The story of a boy lighting an agender individual’s skirt on fire on a bus leading to severe burns changes both of their lives, equally explores the factors that led both parties together on a bus for just a few minutes each day on the way home from school that led to the incident—and to learning and forgiveness. Certainly not everyone needs to nor should forgive their attacker… but the process certainly made for an interesting part of the story. 

The Pregnancy Project – Gaby Rodriguez. It sounds crazy but it’s true: a teenage girl, with permission of the school and her mother, faked a pregnancy for her senior project. Gaby’s mom and sister were both teen moms, and feels everyone is expecting her to get pregnant like they did. So, as a social experiment she “does”. I’m still so confused by the ethics of this decision on the part of the school, but this book was super interesting. 

Life Will Be the Death of Me… And You Too! – Chelsea Handler. Ugh, so I rated this three stars because it was generally enjoyable-ish, but also, every time I think of it my reaction is just that—ugh. Chelsea Handler is basically a famous person who can’t do anything for herself and finally figures it out, and then pays tons of money to famous psychologist Dan Siegel to help her sort out her not-normal-person-problems. Her problems are clearly valid, I am just basically irritated by the premise and tone of this book since like, she couldn’t figure out how to turn off her speaker because she never had to before and had to sleep with music on all night, and is just somehow able to have her dog running around in her first class pod? Writing this mini-review makes me feel like downgrading my rating. Anyways, I think my bottom line is: the self-discovery (of Chelsea) is interesting, but the anecdotes of not knowing how to do anything are annoying.
(I should probably add here that I’ve met Dan Siegel and done a workshop with him once at Stanford Medicine X. Which is clearly not therapy, but a fun-fact.)

Dear Nobody – Berlie Doherty. Teenage girl gets pregnant, teenage boy is the dad. The interesting thing is this is mostly written from the teenage father’s perspective, but also through letters from the mother-to-be to her unborn baby, whom she calls nobody. Predictable-ish storyline but still leaves you guessing at parts, like any teen pregnancy story should. (Well, save for that one two books up… the biggest twist there was knowing she was actually not pregnant, but I digress.)

Tash Hearts Tolstoy – Kathryn Ormsbee. I liked this book more than I’d thought I would, given it’s a fictional account of YouTube fame and all. I felt like it pretty accurately captured the weirdness of that kind of a thing, while having a character who was just quirky enough and had like, normal problems, like draining her college fund to go to a YouTube awards thing in Orlando, problems with friends, and a weird obsession with Tolstoy. It was kind of refreshing to actually see a character whose entire world wasn’t tragically falling apart.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman. Not that this book wasn’t good but again it’s another of those let’s throw EVERYTHING into this book. Everything. type books. And at times, it’s a bit much because while life is truly chaotic, I get it, I feel like all the things in this one was a bit much. I could start to describe it, but we might be here the length of the book with all the things it contained. It was in no way bad, but yeah, a lot going on. To the extent I can’t even provide a summary other than it was based around a podcaster and a super-fan randomly knowing each other IRL without knowing it, and that spinning into a whole web of things

Books read: 12

Books read in 2019 so far: 49/115 – 43% to goal.

 

Again, what are you reading? Add me on Goodreads, I think we can still discover our book-matching-ness on there? That could be fun. (Yes, we can still discover our book-matching-ness but possibly only from a computer, not the app.)